Much to my delight, the Upper East Side (pre-COVID era) had been bubbling with more and more artistic and cultural activity since I had originally begun working and studying in the area a few years ago. New gallery branches, existing galleries offering new shows more often, temporary gallery spaces became connected with existing and visiting communities through city-organized events. Altogether these things offered options for refuge on days when the heart called for art more than usual.
It was on one such day when I found peace at a wonderfully crowded Tod Papageorge show at Danziger Gallery. Tucked in a building brimming with galleries, and after a number of particularly grueling experiences crammed in a single workday, I found myself in an exhibition. It offered repose to such a degree that you cannot help but tell everyone you know (and don’t know).
The gallery had just opened its exhibition Tod Papageorge showing photographs taken by the artist in the early eighties on the occasion of the release of his new book On the Acropolis. The exhibition displayed a collection of photographs of scenes from the Acropolis hill in Athens. It was a truly excellent demonstration of Papageorge’s aptness in intertwining humans, monuments, and nature in a poetic way reminiscent of a James Ivory period film.
Some photographs were crowded with an array of visitors foreign or otherwise. The eye got easily lost in the sea of activity in stark contrast with the stillness of the ancient monuments. For a brief moment, it was as though you were there. Other prints were tranquil and quiet featuring few to no people allowing the eye to take in the site differently mingling the viewer’s glance with the photographer’s. The artist’s balance between action and stasis, when viewing the works in person, was simply captivating.
Another mesmerizing aspect of Papageorge’s Acropolis photographs was his use of light. The high contrast flattens the elements of each image creating the illusion of them being on a single plane. Per the artist, this was his way of referencing the style in which scenes are painted on ancient Greek amphorae. Nevertheless, it also appeared as a tribute to the Mediterranean summer sun as described in novels, and etched in the memory of those who visit and those who pause to take it in. Its brightness, only exaggerated when reflected from the, now, white ancient marbles leave the viewer in a bright and beautiful haze. I had yet to encounter photos that captured this visual experience so aptly.